Skip to main content

tv   Book Discussion on The Speaker of the House  CSPAN  April 12, 2014 11:30pm-12:01am EDT

11:30 pm
study of leadership if the" professor green, what's the speaker of the house responsible for? >> guest: a number of responsibilities. he or she is the top oifers of the house of representatives, and the only one named in the institution. there's an exception that speakers are there to represent the house of representatives with the tenant as the american people. the practical matter the speaker is responsible for ensuring that the house operates correctly, ensuring that legislation is enacted, helping to develop the agenda, interacting with the president, interacting with the american people, and ensuring that generals that the house is working the will of the people. >> host: could anyone be the speaker of the house? do you have to be a member of the house? >> guest: technically, you do not. all the constitution says is the house shall choose its speaker, so, in theory, anyone can run
11:31 pm
for speaker of the house. as a practical member, it's been a member of the house of representatives, but that is not a limitation on the selection of the speaker. >> host: how partisan is the post? >> guest: that's a great question, and the -- i would say this, it's a partisanship of the office the speaker change overtime. from the very beginning, the office of speaker had both partisan an nonpartisan responsibilities. in other words, to some extent, the speaker was expected to represent the majority party in the house, but also to some extent speaker has parliamentary responsibilities ensuring that the rules are followed every member has the same rights, treated fairly, and to preside over the day-to-day operations of the house on the house tbloor. overtime, the position of speaker has become more partisan, and i would say
11:32 pm
reached the height of the temporary partisanship around the 1990s and 2000s was because gingrich and speaker pelosi. boehner pulled away from that and tried to reintroduce the left partisan aspects of the speakership, but it's still a very partisan position, and the majority party in the house expects the speaker to carry out the will of the party. >> host: when you look back at the history of the speaker, who have been some of the more effective ones or well known ones? >> guest: well, first what comes to mind a sam rayburn, speaker from 1940 #s until the early 196 os, and he was a prominent speaker in part because he lasted so long. he served off and on for 20 years and rare to have a speaker last as long as as that, certainly after two or three terms. he was a rare speaker in that he understood the house in which he
11:33 pm
served, and he understood what it was that motivated members of the house of representatives. he had what you say is a spiel for the chamber, making it possible for him to get a lot done, understand what's possible after politics. some of the major legislation that was enacted during that time period was enacted during his speakership whether it was transportation legislation, civil rights legislation, legislation related to world war ii, and so he was, in many ways, one of thee most effective and best known speakers of the house of representatives. we've also had recent speakers who dplon -- dmon straighted considerable effectiveness. newt gingrich in the early years, the first 100 days, turned the house into a real machine just producing major, major legislation under his leadership, relatively swiftly,
11:34 pm
which was very impressive. nancy pelosi, the enagentment of health care legislation, a huge feat, a last minute outcome. >> host: what is the speaker's normal interaction with the senate? >> guest: with the senate? i don't say it's a normal relationship, but varies by who the speaker is, which party is in control of the house and which is control of the senate, and varies on the personalities of the speakers and senate leadership. there's app expectation that speakers need an open line of communication with the senate because you can't get
11:35 pm
legislation enagented without the senate's approval, and so to that respect, there's some communication or relationship, but the degree of closeness that there is between the speaker and the senate andth senate leaders, it's going to vary tremendously by who the individual speaker is and the leader is dependent on. >> host: who are the least effective speakers? >> guest: ha-ha, least effective speakers? well, good question. i'd say there's a host of speakers in the 19th century that did not serve long and are not known for doing much, and you can put those on the list, and you can focus on the speakers of the 40s, focus of the book, and i would say the first name that comes to mind it probably either carl albert serving in the early 1970s or
11:36 pm
john mccormick after rayburn. they had, for various reasons, difficult time for getting legislation enacted. they had a difficult party to work with, the majority party, majority democrats had rebels, folks who wanted to go their own way, making it hard to enact legislation. they also had personal issues, for example, new mccormick in te end waited to be speaker for many, many years, and when he finally got the chance, he was somewhat elderly, and i heard he presided over the house with an oxygen tank, so he did not have the fortitude, the constitution necessary to put in the effort necessary in order to get the legislation done. mccormick and albert were lower on the list of those
11:37 pm
effective contemporary speakers. >> host: how would you grade boehner? >> >> guest: how would i grate boehner? well, i hesitate to grade boehner to the extempt he's still speaker. we see in history that sometimes speakers save their biggest and most amazing accomplishments for the end of their tenures so we still have, i think the jury's still out. i would say this about speaker boehner. back in the early 1930 #s, we had a speaker named john nans garner, democrat from texas, later vice president under fdr, and he said that speakership is the hardest job in washington, and i think that's pretty much summing up the experience of boehner. imagine how much changed since the 1930s when they said that, if anything, the job has gotten exponentially more difficult, and they deal with campaign funding, independent groups that
11:38 pm
fund sometimes primary challenges against members of your party, you have a 24-hour news cycle, a variety of interest groups, putting tremendous pressure on the job of speaker to try to get things done. i think boehner has challenges to the speakership, and you couple that with some of the more -- shall we say independent minded members of the party right now in the house of representatives, and to make it harder for him to count on the party loyalty necessary to enact legislation. >> how much attention to they
11:39 pm
pay to the particular district once speaker? >> guest: once speakers become speaker, what they think about, really, is their party. they want to do what their party wants, after all, it's their party, majority party, the speaker will be, and while i acknowledge that's true to a large degree in the book, i point out that speakers have done things on behalf of issues and concerns permly, very important, and if we look further back in the past, nancy pelosi and human rights, john mccormick and catholic education, sam rayburn, and the energy -- since the oil and gas industry in texas, we see speakers sometime saying this matters enough to me, that i
11:40 pm
want to pursue this, and they also do have to think about themselves getting relegislated. they could be in danger of losing a seat, but this has not happened very often. the last to lose re-election was tom fully in 1994, but speakers, like other members, need to be aware of the possibility they could lose reelection, and so they will, and just like any other member of congress would. >> before tom, who was the last speaker? >> it had been over a hundred years. >> host: what makes a good speaker? >> guest: i would say it's a combination of a number of
11:41 pm
things. first i'd say be a good listener. speakers have to be good listeners. they have to hear what members are saying. they have to know when a member of congress says something if they mean what they say or if there's something else going on there, understand what members want and need, and related to that is knowing districts of members of congress so that if you have someone in the party saying i can't support you on this because my constituents oppose it, they need to say, well, actually, i understand your district, and i don't think it's quite the situation that you portray. in other words, being able to persuade members involves knowing members in the district. obviously, persuasion is the third thing that malters, being able to persuade. in addition to the personal traits, what makes a good speaker is an understanding that they are representing the entire chamber, remitting the whole house of representatives,
11:42 pm
voters, the president, the senate, and so that means sometimes saying to members of congress, you know, i know you want this, but if we do it, social security going to make the chamber look bad, going to hurt our ability to do our work, and if you don't like t you know, i understand that, but this is my job as speaker, is to do things that help the whole chamber because when we help the whole chamber, help the louse of rentives as an constitution, and then we help the american people and then the country. displs what is the level of interaction historically speaker had with the president? >> guest: historically, speakers have had a fair -- fairly significant degree of interaction with presidents. again, just because -- just as speakers needs to have a relationship with the senate in order to get a bill enacted, they got to have a relationship with the president in order to get that bill signed into law, and the president is seen by the american people as the person who sets the gnarl agenda, who
11:43 pm
represents the country at large, and so it is important for speakers to have some relationship with presidents and hopefully a positive working relationship. now, that has been a challenge for speakers when they are the opposite party of the president, and we have seen, from time to time, cases where issues have seriously divided speaker and presidents, and even look into the late 1990s, the intensity impeachment proceedings of president bill clinton. obviously, that creates a huge strap on that relationship. at the same time, there's an understanding of avenues of communication. if they do not talk to each other, nothing gets done. the president loses, the speaker loses. the ability to thack on the phone once a week, to meet, if necessary, those are part of the job of the speaker. >> host: why did you choose to write the book? >> guest: i chose to write
11:44 pm
this book, actually, it was experiences i had as congressional aide in the mid-1990s. i worked on capitol hill, and i was there during the 1994 election, which was the election where the republicans won control of the house and senate, and most notably, the house, had not had a majority in the house in 40 year, and i was struck by a number of things, one was that you could tell walking the halls of congress, the parties, you know, overjoyed, and that was quite a remarkell experience, and them also watching speaker newt gingrich and how hi operated as speaker, and forcefulness with which he exercised leadership, speed at which he got legislation enactedded made an impression on me, and i thought about what is
11:45 pm
it that speakers do and whether newt gingrich was an anomaly or part of the trend or one of many speakers to use the power of the office, and so that was the experiences that got me thinking about writing about this, and them later in graduate school, looking for topics to write aboutings i realize the speakership is something that was not explored much, and i was still interested in it, and interested, at this point, in the end of the speakership and the new speakership, and based on that, i started doing historically research and found all these interesting stories about the speakers beginning back to the 1940s and then i thought, well, speakers meater. you need to really kind of understand that, and how dupe they matter? when can we say, yes, they change the outcome of the vote? also, we have to understand why they do it.
11:46 pm
always because what the party wants or something else? based on the research, i found something interests is they adopt only make a difference, but do it because they think it matters or their district they represent thinks it matters or the president thinks it matters, even if their own party in the house of representatives does not think it matters, and so that started. >> host: could newt gingrich's speakership have been longer? >> well, it's difficult. hard to see if it could have been longer. there was a way in which newt gingrich had a somewhat similar problem to boehner, a fairly large group of new young members who, and this is not unusual, both parties had this, they come in, zealous, a sense they know how to fix things, and at first, that creates tremendous enthusiasm and energy, useful to
11:47 pm
the majority party, but invariably, that group or members get disallusioned, feel the things -- they got elected on are not done, and they become a challenge for a speaker, and, again, this happened to albert in the 1970s, and this happened to speaker boehner, but with newt gingrich, he had the same problem. to some, it was a difficult situation for anyone, no matter who the speaker was, but there was another personal aspect to it, i say, which was that newt gingrich was the speaker who believes in being a regime, a leader of the troops, and the folks would follow, and things mentioned about the importance of listening and understanding where members come from is not newt gingrich's strong suit, and so because of that, it exacerbated tensions going on in the party and led some republicans to question his ability to lead past the first couple years of the speakership,
11:48 pm
and so those elements of the personality made it and contributed to the relatively short nature of the pen tenure, if he acted differently after the first two years, possibly, we might have seen newt newt last longer than we did. >> host: boehner said after the government shutdown that he didn't really want to do it, but he saw where his members were going. >> right. >> this is an example of the difficulty that boehner was in, which a lot of members who are believing this was the one source of leverage to get the policy outcomes they wanted from president obama which was to use the instruments at their disposal, the debt limit generally. the danger is, and so in that
11:49 pm
respect, boehner was doing what a smart teacher does, which are what real members are, act accordingly. it's not as easy as people think for speakers to tell members what to do. they don't have the tools at their disposal as you think they would, and, certainly, in other countries, we see leader who say, well, if you don't support me, you're not getting -- you're not nominated against the office, and so our speaker does not have that power, and so that extends -- boehner truthfully did what he had to do, but there is a way in which it is part of the job as teacher to fry to not -- you know, the office and leadership tried to educate members and explain, look, if we follow path a, this is harmful to the party and also harmful to the country and so forth. if we take pat b, it's less harmful. we don't get what we want, necessarily, everything we want if we take path b. we take path a, we almost certainly will not get what we
11:50 pm
want, and we're going to make ourselves the party and congress look bad. it was not -- i'm not saying it would have been easy to accomplish that or that other speakers, other members of congress could have done a better job, but i think that was what was missing from the equation and what led to so much of the conflict, the shutdown last winter was the difficulty of boehner, the leadership team, whether it was inability or just not a possible situation, and to get members to understand the direction that made them want to go was a problematic, and one other thing, too, which is an important part of the equation, the minority party in the house of representatives. now, if he got the democrats to say, avoid a government shutdown, this wouldn't have been an issue. in decades past, it was possible, but in tea's highly partisan congress, that's not something that speakers have at their disposal. minority parties refuse to give
11:51 pm
votes to the majority on big issues, and that constrained it, now they have to get only the votes of their majority party, and if you have a critical mass of the republican members in the party who don't want to did along, you're in trouble. this is something that may have harden the speakers more than ever before. >> host: what are the rewards and punishments that a speaker has? >> guest: rewards that tea's speakers have, and this changes, but the rewards speakers have vary enormously ranging from, say, well, i'll schedule a vote, or o bill you want or an item you want to saying, you know, put in good word for you, and speakers have a precisive influence on who gets committee at times, and that's an important power to have, and speakers can say i've going to give you the district and there's money for you and reelection, that's an important asset. speakers also have little
11:52 pm
things, smaller things that people might dismiss, but, in fact, are important to members by just saying, well, we're going to have a congressional delegation going to syria, and i can only have three members of congress on it. would you like to be one? this is something that members would love -- every member in congress wanted tews it, and it is a great incentive. those are some of the rewards that speakers can provide; however, and then there are some punishments, the reverse of that, and you're not going to get congressional delegation spots, and tricks. so it's important for those to work that members care about these thicks, and traditionally, they do. they care about reassignments, raising money, but when it happens particularly with the bane leadership is you have a group of members in the party who are not interested. maybe they are not running for relix or can get plenty of
11:53 pm
campaign funding from outside interest groups or say i don't really -- i'm not interested in moving up. i want to stay on the committee i'm on and just do what i want to do, and that's another reason why it's hard in the boehner speaker ship with members saying, you know, what you have to offer is not enough for me, and there is one other benefit that speakers used to be able to provide which boehner no longer can, and that's earmarks when items are put in the bill that provides funding for a dam or bridge or road in the district. , and the republicans urn speaker pelosi campaign on getting rid of it because they argued they were abused, so they stopped using them, and when they did, they no longer had an important part, and they said my constituents don't want me to vote for the bill, what do you do for me? >> i wash i could get you the road you want, you i can't.
11:54 pm
if you can't, all i have when i go back is just this vote they don't like so i'll vote against you. that's been a huge problem for the republican leadership in the house of representatives, a lack of the benefits that provide it. >> host: how do you rate pelosi as a speaker? >> guest: in terms of her effectiveness, what she got done, very, very highly. i think that she was a very active speaker. she -- if for smog else, nope for i providing critical support for the passage of obama's affordable care act, obamacare, when it look like it was going to fail at the last minute, and her ability to -- her sort of releaptlessness in taking up jobs and lobbying members and helping members of congress and working to get things done is really quite remarkable. i think the jury's out, but if there's criticism of the pelosi
11:55 pm
speakership, it's whether or not there was too high a price paid for some of the legislative accomplishments. in the first two years of the obama white house, the house of representatives, under her leadership, passed a swliew of major bills, and some of them became law; some did not; some were tough votes for moderate members of her party, votes on climate change, votes on obamacare, and those members subsequently lost re-election. now, it's not clear if the votes cost them reelection, but for some, it may have made the difference, and the extent that it did may have costed them to control at the house of representatives. this is a dilemma all speakers have which is do you get bills past, hurt reelection chances or protect them in getting relegislated at except of getting what you want done. the things she accomplished cost the democrats control of the
11:56 pm
house of representatives and hindered president obama's agenda, that's something that would be part of her legacy that would be less positive. >> host: so people know where you're coming from, on that day in 1994 when the republicans took back house of representatives, did you have a smile on your face, or was it a could? >> guest: it was not a scowl, but it was not a smile either. i worked for r a democrat. it was one of the democrats who did not lose. it was more a sigh of relief, quite frankly, because it was a year in which every -- almost every democrat was in danger of losing. it was one of the wave elections. it was a bit of shock and relief, i spodes, but then, also, a bit of curiosity. well, now that the republicans have a turn, let's see what happens next. >> host: what do you teach? >> guest: several courses in american politics. i teach app introdorks to american politics course. i teach a course on the u.s.
11:57 pm
congress and for part of that course, i have the students play a member of congress, and they try to get a bill enacted through the house of representatives, and that is a great experience for the student and for myself, if for no other reason i get to play speaker. i have a gavel i get to use, and i also teach a course call power in american politics, learning of aspects in power in the united states, power of interest group, power of congress, paver of the president, power of the people, power of the voters, those are some i teach. >> host: why don't speakers vote on legislation? >> guest: they traditionally do not vote because it's a legacy of the hybrid position of speaker as i mentioned before. they are seen as both a partisan leader and nonpartisan leader, and if you're nonpartisan, that means you're not supposed to be taking part in issues of the day that puts you on one side of the
11:58 pm
question of the other, and the speaker is to be presiding over the house and ensuring everything's done fairly. people might question their ability to do that if they are also with the vote, and traditionally, they do not participate in the vote. they can. they are no prohitted from doing so, but traditionally, they do not. this also changed over time, and in the 1970s, speakers participated more and more often, culminating with newt gingrich who voted quite a bit and pelosi did as well, but boehner, i mentioned before, moves back a little bit from the partisan role, he volted very, very rarely on the house floor, and i think that is, in part, reflection of the belief that the speaker needs to move himself or herself out of the debates and conflicts in order to be seen as someone who has the whole house and interest of the whole house at heart. >> host: we've. talking with catholic university professor matthew green about
11:59 pm
his book "speaker of the house: a study of leadership" published by yale university press. here's the cover. you're watching booktv on c-span2. >> i think what we need is akin to the grace commission during the reagan administration or the commission, the base realignment and closing commission during, i think, the clinton administration. an outside group with integrity, former members of congress, no current elected politicians, to come in, do a complete audit of government from top to bottom. everything agency of government, juan, has a piece of legislation or charter that created it. it has a purpose. if it's not fulfilling that purpose, or not doing it within a reasonable budget, it should be cut or eliminated. take head start. i mean, this is -- this came in with the highest motivation. do you know, and i did not until i researched it, there's now three head starts. there's early head start, enhangsed head start, and
12:00 am
there's regular head start. why do we have the other two? the first one was not working. why the third one? because the second one was not working. >> on "after words" cal thomas on fixings broken washington sunday night at nine. ..

6 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on